Bright movie review, and critics vs. film viewers

I said I was going to try and get better at keeping this blog updated with my latest work. So here is my first vlog of 2018, looking at Netflix's big budget urban fantasy film, Bright, starring Will Smith, directed by David Ayer and written by Max Landis. I also briefly look at two recent incidents where critical opinion clashed violently with that of ordinary cinemagoers and home viewers.

You can watch my video review below. Alternatively, if you're not a vlogging fan or can't watch the clip for whatever reason, you can read my script notes beneath the video as a rough written review.


Happy New Year and I wish you all the best with your personal projects for 2018.

Looking back a little bit, we ended December with an interesting situation in entertainment. Two cases in the past few weeks where movie critics and the public have been at strong odds with each other Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is a helluva lot more divisive than I expected, with critics praising it and audiences being considerably cooler with their assessment.

And now, Bright, the first Netflix original movie, made for a big budget $90 million. Critics laid into it yet there are a lot of very vocal supporters of this R-rated buddy cop-fantasy hybrid where humans, orcs and elves (and some other magical beings) share contemporary Los Angeles. Even seen people on social media saying they prefer it to The Last Jedi.

Sure mainstream filmmakers are kind of pleased with the latter case. They’ve been brushing off bad reviews with comments like “We’re making movies for the fans, not critics.” That was the case with The Mummy.

Feel it’s in keeping with 2017 – a year of very strong splits in opinion.

So what did I think about Bright? I saw the initial review comments, but I feel like Will Smith has become one of those actors – like Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence now maybe – where critics have their knives sharpened no matter what. Can’t be trusted to judge a movie on its own merits. Need to be an informed commentator. And I really like Will Smith.

Bright for me, well, I agree with the critics. I thought it was painfully bad. Even worse, it was a disappointment, squandering a fascinating concept with loads of potential. This seems to be at the core of the difference between people who hated it and those who enjoyed it – the degree to which they were satisfied with the exploration of its world and concept. I wasn’t.

For me everything felt obvious and heavy-handed. Not the actors, who did their best with what they were given – Noomi Rapace wasted especially; there to look cool but has maybe 5 lines. Terrible creative choices of director David Ayer and writer Max Landis. Clunky. Devoid of energy. Boring.

Example: Fantasy genre, so they drop in references to a Dark Lord and prophesy although neither are explored. But hey, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have them, so they must be mentioned. It's lazy!

Very frustrating viewing experience. Instead of exploring the world lore, we get a 3 minute conversation about how fairies throw their shit. Bright strains to appear edgy and adult orientated. So cue lots of profanity and a visit to a strip club.

I had so many questions. Like if humans, orcs and elves have been interacting for centuries, why has it taken until 2016 for the first orc to enter the police force? Why is the world still so normal – hasn’t magic and the intermingling of the races fundamentally altered a lot of the way we do things? Lembas bread – Tolkien example – or humans body modifying with orc-style tusks. South Africa strove for apartheid and still races and cultures borrowed from each other. No evidence of that in Bright.

Zero nuance. Or depth. Core scenario is Will Smith’s veteran beat cop forced to partner with the department’s first ever orc police officer, played by Joel Edgerton. But while you see Smith’s home life, Edgerton’s orc remains an inept “other.” You aren’t ever encouraged to view the world through his eyes. Not fleshed out at all. Doesn’t explore racial prejudice by encouraging you to identify with the recipient. Just one of fifty ingredients thrown in the pot.

Want cop drama with credible and involving dialogue? Watch Ayer’s End of Watch. If you want cops and prejudice explored through genre filter, watch Alien Nation. And if you want urban fantasy with elves, where magic and our reality meet, palate cleanse and watch Hellboy sequel The Golden Army.

Bright is devoid of energy or originality. Dialogue cringe-worthy as it foreshadows certain events. By happily accepting and celebrating Bright, filmmakers are encouraged to continue this kind of lacklustre movie-making. You deserve more than tasteless junk food.

But now I open the floor to you. Please share your comments about Bright below this video.

Peace out and Happy New Year. Let’s do better in 2018.


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